I remember being eight years old and excitedly entering one of my stories in a writing contest for OWL, my favourite magazine at the time.
While my story didn’t get published, I received a really nice handwritten postcard in the mail, encouraging me to keep writing.
I write because I feel compelled to write. It’s almost as though I didn’t choose to be a writer. Writing chose me.
I don’t see myself as a literary writer. In high school I did very well in a Grade 10 English literature class, finishing in the 93rd percentile, But in Grade 11, I didn’t get great marks on short story assignments and I wasn’t my teacher’s favourite student. I didn’t impress her. My stories weren’t considered as interesting as those of my classmates.’ At graduation she gave me an award for being “most improved in English” or something like that. She said she issued that award to help me because I was planning to be a writer but I felt pitied and I doubted my writing abilities.
I had originally planned to become an environmentalist. But I was terrible at math and didn’t do well in science classes. I figured since I failed Grade 11 math and I didn’t understand it at all, my chances of ever realizing that dream were low.
So writing seemed realistic. I figured journalism would work since I didn’t need to be literary, I could just present the facts and I could play with words without worry and be creative in a way that suited me. After reading about freelance writing I decided that when I had children I could work from home and have more chances to spend time with them. I had no idea what that would actually be like but when I was 16 that sounded great.
Over the years I’ve had a few editors (five out of 20, something like that) who’ve hated my writing style. I’ve been told I lack a voice and personality and that I should join a writing group.
I’m not sure what to make of such criticism. I’m not a ‘hey look at me’ kind of person. Because of my news journalism background and leanings I’m not always comfortable putting myself in the articles I write. I was taught that stories weren’t about me but about the people I was covering or profiling.
I write because I enjoy sharing people’s stories, exposing injustice, informing people. I write because writing helps me get my thoughts and daydreams out of my head.